But according to a report (PDF) released by the NASA Orbital Debris Program Office this week, help may be at hand.
"Although high levels of solar activity are a bane to spacecraft operators, the consequent increase in the density of the Earth's atmosphere is a welcome, albeit brief, respite from an otherwise growing orbital debris population," says Nicholas Johnson, NASA Chief Scientist for Orbital Debris.
Say what? Solar activity might be able to help alleviate the space debris issue?
Yes, this is true; the same thing that threatens the safety of multi-million dollar satellite systems may be helping to "scrub" space trash from orbit. During periods of increased solar activity - like now - the sun turns into a passive vacuum cleaner of sorts.
As magnetic activity inside the sun amps-up toward peak activity in its 11-year solar cycle (known as solar maximum, predicted to occur in 2013), there is a higher frequency of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). This increased energy output energizes the outer layers of the Earth's atmosphere, and through the laws of basic thermodynamics, it causes the atmosphere to expand.